When five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared in 2015, the world looked on in shock. Two of the booksellers were abducted outside the borders of mainland China. Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, was taken from his apartment in Thailand that October, only to reappear in a televised confession months later. In January of 2018, after he had ostensibly been released from state custody, was seized on a train, the Swedish diplomats accompanying him no deterrent to his abductors. He still remains in China today, unable to leave. Lee Bo, a British citizen, was picked up off the streets of Hong Kong. He made a brief reappearance in the city, asking the Hong Kong police to drop the case of his disappearance and announcing that he would never sell banned books again. He was then whisked away back over the border to mainland China.
Au revoir, Paris, good riddance, Brexitland . . .
By Bruce Humes, July 10, '18
It is well known that Howard Goldblatt did more than just translate some of Mo Yan's work; he heavily edited, even re-wrote parts of it, apparently with the author's permission. There are those who believe this is one reason why Mo Yan received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Over at the Literary Saloon (book review), Michael Orthofer reviews Goldblatt's rendition of Xiao Hong's Ma Bo’le’s Second Life. Orthofer calls attention to "a few small-print lines on the copyright page":
The translator has completed the original unfinished work and has placed it in a contemporary context. A full explanation is given in the translator's afterward [sic].
A poetic and unflinching fable about tyranny, guilt, and the erasure of history, by the banned Chinese writer hailed as ‘China’s Solzhenitsyn’.
More about Ma Jian
“Each writer is trying to give his or her answers to social problems. Each has their own stand. If you don’t understand the background for their creativity, novels are just stories … Once you attain their thoughts by learning about a writer’s intention, your life is actually enriched.”
Intro from Douban.com
When Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (Santi) won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015, and Hao Jingfang’s Folding Beijing (Beijing zhedie) got the same award for Best Novelette in 2016, Chinese science fiction officially entered a golden age. In this CLT, we are presenting two sections on Chinese science fiction made possible by Wu Yan, professor in the Department of Humanities at Southern University of Science and Technology (who is also a science fiction writer), and Yao Jianbin, professor of comparative and world literature at Beijing Normal University—also a CLT deputy editor.
open access to all articles
We’re also delighted to announce that Xinxin and Helen will be coming to Leeds on July 16th to talk about their work (more details to follow). There’s a particular Leeds connection with Xinxin’s work, as her acclaimed oral history written with Sang Ye – Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China – was edited and translated into English by Delia Davin and Bill Jenner, both formerly professors of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Studies here at Leeds, though Delia sadly passed away in 2016.
If one hasn’t yet sampled contemporary Chinese fiction, this novella is more of a substantial hors d’oeuvre than a main course; it appetizes rather than sates.
(Article in English, with link to Chinese original)
China calling: In the late 70s, I had an intense desire to think, live and dream in Chinese, and to experience Mao Zedong’s revolution in person. But as the United States still hadn’t recognised communist China, in 1978, I packed my bags and headed instead for Taipei, to further my Mandarin studies. Eventually, I wound up in opportunity-rich Hong Kong, where I learned Cantonese, married locally and raised our daughter.
My first job was working in a UN-hosted camp for Vietnamese refugees, preparing them for culture shock when they would be resettled in a big-hearted country called America, whose GIs had decimated theirs. I moved on to work for a trade magazine publisher, where I got lucky when my boss chose me to research and launch half-a-dozen Chinese-language B2B magazines for the mainland.
By Eric Abrahamsen, June 21, '18
We're very pleased to announce that Jeremy Tiang is taking over as Pathlight magazine's new Managing Editor! This, er, storied position, previously held by Dave Haysom and Alice Xin Liu, involves sourcing interesting new literature and poetry from Chinese writers, and commissioning and editing excellent translations. Actually it mostly consists of cracking the whip on deadlines. We're really excited to have Jeremy on board, and look forward to some of his ideas about making Pathlight more accessible in the US, in particular. Despite his claims to never leave his Brooklyn apartment, he seems to know everyone in town.
"No one, wise Kublai,” says Marco Polo in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, “knows better than you that the city must never be confused with the words that describe it.” In Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, Hong Kong’s Dung Kai-cheung writes, “All places are misplaces, and all misplaces are misreadings,” and “The prerequisite for the setting of boundaries on maps is possession of the power to create fiction.”
Welcome to a true life inspired account of passions set largely in the luxurious and exclusive confines behind the embassy’s steel gate in Beijing’s Sanlitun district. This is not merely the stark diary of the carnality and spirit of a blacklisted female writer in China. It also delves into the minds of the over-sexed, conflicted European men who populate the booming 21st-century capital, and the dark side of their relations with Chinese women who flock to them like moths to a white-hot light bulb.
From Leys' The Chairman’s New Clothes: Mao and the Cultural Revolution:
The author of this work…was impelled—by the weight of evidence thrown up in the texts, facts and personal accounts which assailed him daily in Hong Kong throughout the years of the “Cultural Revolution”—to cry out, like the child in the fairy story, “But the Emperor has no clothes!”
For commercial rather than political reasons, Mr. Zhou’s literary agent here also made changes in the English-language version of the book, translated by Zac Haluza. The action now takes place in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, not Yangzhou or nearby Nanjing, the cities Mr. Zhou said he had in the back of his mind when crafting the story. The assumption was that Chengdu, which is best known for pandas and spicy food, would be recognizable to foreign readers and give the drama a more visceral feel, Rob Bloom, Mr. Zhou’s editor at Doubleday, said in an email.
周浩暉的美國文學代理人出於商業原因，而非政治原因，也對該書的英文版做了些改動，英文版由扎克·哈盧扎(Zac Haluza)翻譯。英文版的故事發生在四川省會成都，而不是揚州或鄰近的南京。周浩暉表示，他在構思這個故事時，頭腦中一直想的是這兩座城市。周浩暉在雙日出版社的編輯羅布·布魯姆(Rob Bloom)在接受電子郵件採訪時表示，這是出於這樣的考慮：以熊貓和辛辣食物聞名的成都為外國讀者所熟知，更可能會讓讀者產生身臨其境的感覺。
“This child was a nobleman in a former life. Nobles may come calling, but they do not linger. In this child’s fate, there is death by water, by metal, by earth, and by wood. There is no death by fire.”
By Nicky Harman, May 13, '18
Lee and Rob got the chance recently to sit down with Dylan King, a scholar and translator of Chinese literature. In this podcast the three talk about the eccentricities and fascinations of post-Cultural Revolution fiction, and dive into Dylan’s recently-published English translation of Record of Regret, Dong Xi’s beautiful, and darkly humorous, account of a countryside family during and after the Cultural Revolution.
The subjects of “Dead Souls” were condemned in the Communist Party’s “anti-rightist” campaign in the 1950s. Like Ms. He, they were imprisoned, enslaved and starved in “re-education” camps like Jiabiangou in the Gobi Desert.
Article is bilingual (Chinese and English).
Few avid Chinese readers of fiction can name an African author or novel, and those who do often cite “Things Fall Apart,” the highly acclaimed novel by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe that portrays the tragic encounter between the Igbo tribe and British colonialism. It was first published in Chinese in the 1960s and has been reprinted countless times since. While literary circles in Africa no longer worship at Achebe’s altar, China’s literary establishment continues to trumpet him as the reigning “father of African literature,” almost to the exclusion of emerging authors.
One-stop, multi-media, whirlwind history of rap in China, complete with 10 catchy videos, and bilingual lyrics -- with insights into how the Party is busy co-opting this art form.
Anna Holmwood to speak at Storydrive (故事驱动)
(Beijing Jun 1, 2018 in Chinese & English)
Why I Translated Legends of the Condor Heroes
Away from the reach of the state, at least in his adult life, Tharlo’s seemingly only link with material modernity is his motorbike and his radio. But a new rule has decreed that all citizens of the People’s Republic of China must possess an identity card, including those living in such remote territories as Amdo (north-eastern Tibet, current Qinghai province).
The state’s edict finally reaches Tharlo, and the film follows him over a period of a few days, caught between two worlds: his familiar, rural, austere environment, where he takes care of three hundred sheep, and an nearby emerging half-Tibetan, half-Chinese town, where he has to go to complete the administrative formality.
Chinese writer Liu Zhenyun has been honoured with France's Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters for his contribution to world literature.
Anyone who reads Little Reunions will understand the origins of the stifling, hypocritical families of her fiction. Julie’s mother is a distant, pathetic stranger who treats her more like a casual acquaintance than a daughter, and her father is perpetually obscured by a haze of opium smoke. She refers to them as Second Aunt and Second Uncle—their place in the baroque family hierarchy. The endless network of cousins and concubines is less a loving family than a complicated business concern filled with unpaid accounts and threatened lawsuits. Semi-incestuous passions smolder for decades, and other secrets fester and rot.
By Nicky Harman, April 18, '18
Here's a fascinating interview with Ilir Ikonomi (aka 依利亚兹·斯巴修）, possibly the world's only literary translator from Chinese into Albanian: http://www.zmzjk.com/news/shizheng/201709/1952487.html
Supchina has developed a Chinese literature quiz that ranges from ancient texts all the way to modern literature. It was harder than I expected, but a lot of fun. See if you really know your Chinese lit!
That evening I sat on a cushion in front of the open doors to Rinpoche’s room, reciting the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Thirty-Five Buddhas of Confession, and sections of the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra. There, in Rinpoche’s presence, I felt cleansed of my foolish affections and jealousies. My heart was as pure as a swift-flowing mountain stream. At dawn I opened my consciousness up to Rinpoche. I felt waves of beautiful light radiating from him, like ripples emanating out over the surface of a pond, penetrating my flesh and gathering in my heart. I felt myself dissolve into the light. I saw clearly that this body was but a temporary residence. Only consciousness is eternal.
The first book of Legends of the Condor Heroes, A Hero Born, has now been brought to the English world by translator Anna Holmwood and published by MacLehose Press.
An event with Anna Holmwood in Guanghwa Bookshop, London on 18 April.
In the case of Jin Yong, the broad sweep of the story, the emotional worlds of the characters, the moral framework behind their actions: all these things translate very easily in my opinion. The parts that are more difficult are mostly in the detail, the elements of Chinese medicine or historical references that are perfectly obvious to a Chinese reader. And yet, it is my opinion that an English reader doesn’t need to understand everything on the same level as his/her Chinese counterpart. I would rather that a translation inspires a reader to explore something further than sacrifices the energy and flow in order to make every detail plain.
By Michelle Deeter, April 15, '18
Spotted at Waterstones Manchester this week: "A Hero is Born" (Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood on display in the window of Waterstones! Several excellent reviews have come out too.
This centuries-old trilogy in verse recounts the exploits of the legendary hero Manas, and his son and grandson in their struggle to resist external enemies — primarily the Oirat Mongols and the Khitan —and to unite the Kyrgyz people. Along with heroic tales such as Dede Korkut and the Epic of Köroğlu, Manas is considered one of the great Turkic epic poems.
Hm, it's more about publishing than translation. But!
The Man Booker International Prize said on Friday that it had changed the nationality of Professor Wu Ming-yi, 46, one of 13 authors on the 2018 longlist, from “Taiwan” to “Taiwan, China” after it had received a complaint from the Chinese embassy in London.
Chen Qiufan [陈楸帆], born in nearby Shantou city, learned about Guiyu’s environmental nightmare from a friend working in the electronics recycling industry. In his debut novel The Waste Tide (2013) [荒潮], 36-year-old Chen turns Guiyu into “Silicon Isle,” a homophone of the village’s name in Chinese. In the cyberpunkish wasteland, migrant workers dismantle prosthetic limbs, eyes, and even heads dumped by rich people, who can upgrade their body parts much like we upgrade our iPhones.
Chinese-language commentary on reception of Jin Yong's novel in the West.
Writer Li Juan shares her memory of a tense experience attempting to send a lengthy manuscript to her publisher from Xinjiang amid the nearly year-long internet blackout and security crackdown that followed the 2009 Ürümqi riots.
Chinese text: 记八年前的事
By Bruce Humes, March 25, '18
Speaking at length during his recent coronation ceremony, the new emperor mispronounced the name of the Tibetan epic, King Gesar, as "King Sager" (习近平把 “格萨尔王” 说成 ”萨格尔王”).
Unsurprisingly, this news did not appear under the headline "President Hurts the Feelings of Millions of Tibetans" in The People's Daily next day.
It is significant that he mentioned two of the three ancient oral epics in his speech, King Gesar (Tibetan) and Manas (Kyrgyz). Chinese literary apparatchiks increasingly refer to them, including Jangar (Mongolian), as “China's Three Great Epics” (我国三大史诗). This despite the fact that they originated in languages other than Chinese, among non-Han peoples and in lands that were not then part of the Chinese empire.
Alerted about it via a tweet by Shawn Zhang (章闻韶), however, Victor Mair's Language Log did discuss XJP's verbal faux pas that went unreported in China mainstream media.
A plot summary barely conveys the extraordinary energy of this book. It blends real and fictional characters, teems with incident – reversals, unexpected meetings, betrayals, cliffhangers – and, most of all, dwells for page after page on lovingly described combat. To paraphrase Miss Jean Brodie: for those of us who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing we like. As martial artists square off, evocatively named strikes are responded to with equally evocatively named parries: Search the Sea, Behead the Dragon; Seize the Basket by the Handle; and, only to be used in extremis, the desperation move: Sword of Mutual Demise. The novel gives us the history of strange martial techniques, assesses the merits of different schools of kung fu, and describes the mysterious internal alchemy that gives rise to the most devastating physical force.
温伯格 [Weinberger]：一种翻译既有来处也有去处。大多数学者翻译的问题是译者知道原文的所有涵义，但却不知道译文要去哪里——也就是目标语言的当代文学语境。在中国诗歌的汉学家译者中，有三位伟大的例外：韦利、华兹生，还有最近的大卫·辛顿（David Hinton）。他们是绝无仅有的译出了伟大英语诗的学者，因为三位都是他们时代英语诗歌的专家。（葛瑞汉可以算第四位，不过他只译了一本诗集。）值得注意的是，他们也都受到了那些只通些许中文的诗人译者的巨大影响，比如庞德、王红公、加里·斯奈德（Gary Snyder）等等。
The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記), a novel written by Taiwanese author Wu Ming-yi (吳明益) and translated into English by Darryl Sterk, has been selected to contend for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize.
The novel is about a writer who embarks on a quest in search of his missing father’s stolen bicycle.
Pen America's report looks at a variety of questions, including the impact of social media censorship on China's fiction writers. Here's an excerpt:
Case Study 3: Chinese Novelist Murong Xuecun
Murong had 8.5 million followers on his Weibo microblog accounts before they were shut down. He attempted to set up new accounts, which were repeatedly shut down as well. The effort of continually trying to evade the censors, Murong shared with PEN America, eventually “wore him out.” Supporting himself with his writing might have been possible if he had continued to toe the Party line through self-censorship. But having made the choice to speak out, Murong’s once-promising literary career is on indefinite hold.
“I sell fresh fruit online and deliver the fruit to my customers now,” he said. “My online store is called ‘Murong Mai Gua’ (Murong sells melons). I am working on my next novel, but I don’t know if it can be published. Four years ago, all my previously published books were pulled off bookstore shelves and I lost the ability to make any money from writing in China,” he told PEN America.
The country’s media regulator – the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television – was set to merge with the Ministry of Culture to create a super cultural ministry to expand the scope of China’s ideological influence, a source familiar with the discussions told the South China Morning Post.
Both bodies are overseen by the State Council, and the merger is expected to be part of a sweeping structural overhaul of the Communist Party and state bureaucracy to be unveiled during the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Tuesday.
By David Haysom, March 2, '18
The Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival is back, with a great line-up of events featuring international authors and some of our favourite local writers, including Xia Jia, Murong Xuecun, Ren Xiaowen, Sun Yisheng, and many more! Pathlight will also be represented at a translation workshop in collaboration with Spittoon magazine.
By Nicky Harman, March 1, '18
Chen Xiwo has some very interesting things to say about his short story 'Pain,' from his collection in translation, The Book of Sins, in a discussion on the Los Angeles Review of Books, with his publisher Harvey Thomlinson, LARB's editorial team, and me, Book of Sins translator.
By Nicky Harman, March 1, '18
I was asked to produce a list of the ten best novels in translation for the China in Context book festival weekend, which focusses this year on translation. I managed to slip "of the" into the title, and have emphasised it's a very personal list. And I guess any publicity (for Chinese literature) is good publicity!
Chinese media report that prolific Xi’an-based novelist Hong Ke (红柯), who was long captivated by the multiethnic history of Xinjiang, died on February 24, 2018 (突发: 陕西著名作家红柯去世享年56岁).
He left his native Shaanxi for Xinjiang in 1983 and lived for a decade in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture bordering on Mongolia and Russia. Although he returned to Shaanxi and took up university teaching positions in Xi’an, Hong Ke --- a Han who never mastered any language but Mandarin --- was deeply inspired by the cultural fusion he discovered in China's far northwest, and subsequently penned numerous novels and short stories set in Xinjiang that feature historical and legendary characters from China's various ethnicities. See here for his Chinese novels, here for an English excerpt from one of them, Urho (乌尔和), and here for excellent backgrounder on him in French.
“A Hero Born” is the first of the 12 volumes of “Legends of the Condor Heroes”, written in the late 1950s. Set in the years after 1205, it enjoyably wields the weapons of wuxia -- traditional martial-arts fiction, with its spectacular combat and pauses for philosophy -- to show Chinese identity under threat from foreign and domestic foes. “Three generations of useless emperors” have brought the Song dynasty to its knees. Quisling allies of the Jurchen Jin invaders, who rule the north, abet imperial decline.
Enter the dragons of salvation: an “eccentric” kung fu clan known as the Seven Freaks of the South, and the militant Taoist monks of the Quanzhen sect. They are first rivals, then collaborators. Though strained, their joint mission embodies a pact between “physical force” and the “more enlightened path” of wisdom that may rescue China.
The novel [The Stolen Bicycle] shows us the talent but also the personality of the novelist: his obsession with ecology is obvious as his passion for bicycles; he even toured Taiwan on an old collector’s bike to promote his novel! A specialist of butterflies, the novelist evokes the industry around them and collages made with their wings.
His family is a central theme and there are many references to the Chunghua Shopping Center where the family worked and lived. Finally, as in other books, he immerses us into the history of Taiwan, Japanese colonization and aboriginals but underlines: “I did not write this novel out of nostalgia but out of respect for an era I did not experience."
Nevertheless, the unifying theme of the novel is the search for a lost father whom the narrator hopes to find by his bicycles which were stolen or lost or abandoned.
(The book is reviewed in both French and English)
LiT Program residencies are an exceptional opportunity for international writers and English-language translators to create new work individually and in collaboration, to find a wider audience for contemporary writers through translation, and to participate in literary exploration and cultural exchange as members of the global creative community at VSC.
From The Metropole, 8 Feb 2018.
By Kristin Stapleton, a member of the board of directors of the Urban History Association and of the Global Urban History Project. She teaches history at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. Her research focuses on urban administration in China and representations of cities in Chinese fiction. She is the author of Fact in Fiction: 1920’s China and Ba Jin’s Family
By Helen Wang, February 4, '18
In 2016 Minjie Chen, Anna Gustafsson Chen and I started a blog/web-resource Chinese Books for Young Readers. We just posted our 60th piece. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way. Keep following!
-- See the full list with weblinks here